The 100th-anniversary sign anchored on Highway A1A was just beginning to glow against the backdrop of sand and surf. Celebrating Fort Lauderdale’s anniversary is reason enough for a night on the town, so with the weekend officially on, it’s time to get out and party. Driving with the windows down, we catch the city’s hum and the balmy breezes. Sweet! This unmatched kickoff to a Friday night escape takes us from a funky retro lounge to a let’s-mingle scene on Las Olas Boulevard that attracts both visitors and locals. Get ready; they’re rolling out the red carpet!
Divine Mermaids - 6:00 p.m.
Our first stop is a classic beach hotel with a cool time- warp lounge. Luring cocktail enthusiasts, the Wreck Bar (954.524.5551) at the newly renovated Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel, formerly the Yankee Clipper, is a must, especially on Friday nights for its Mermaid Show. Upon entering, we think we’re on a wrecked pirate ship that once trolled for treasure. Seven built-in aquariums with an ocean-blue backdrop share the wooden interior with seafaring kitsch, including a mermaid portrait in stained glass (how apropos). Packed with couples catching a casual bite, we arrive a half hour prior to showtime to grab a seat at a table with a view through porthole-style windows of the swimming pool. It’s here that the gorgeous Mermaid Pod, led by Marina, emerges with flowing locks adorned with tropical flowers and brilliant-hued mermaid tails. Showtime is 6:30 p.m. sharp. In unison, the oohs and ahs reverberate as the mermaids blow kisses to their adoring fans. The Wreck Bar’s fame dates back to the film Where the Boys Are, a 1960s Fort Lauderdale spring-break romp. Then, in 1999, Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal filmed a scene of the wacky comedy Analyze This here too. After taking one more sip of a perfect cocktail — a tropical mango concoction with two kinds of rum — a couple of hunks sit down. One asks, “Why are you leaving so early, aren’t you performing next?” With a chuckle, I’m off to Las Olas for reservations at 8.
Din-Din - 8:00 p.m.
The drive from the Wreck Bar to the thick of Las Olas is serene and quick as we pass isles that give Fort Lauderdale its “Venice of America” nickname. Plenty of people are strolling the busy boulevard. The valet at Yolo/You Only Live Once (yolorestaurant.com) is making certain to park the Maserati that just pulled in near the Ferrari that’s already out front. Ooh, can’t help but wonder — who’s behind these wheels? The scene outside of Yolo confirms its hot-spot rep with a buzzing crowd at the indoor/outdoor bar adjacent to a courtyard filled with towering palms festooned with white lights. Happy people on lounges and loglike stools sit amid river-rock-encased fire pits. Since our table is ready, we head from one action-packed spot to another. Our vantage point in the dining room is prime — the open kitchen and prep table is especially fun for foodies. The interior is earthy with oversize circular lighting fixtures; there’s a palette of chocolaty wood tones and vivid reddish hues. Vases filled with twisted bark dotted with lush topiaries decorate dividers. It smells great in here. We begin with Yolo’s moist meatball sliders served on super soft buns with tomato gravy; an order of truffled Yolo chips is devoured in no time; these house-made wonders are thinny-thin and topped with Maytag blue cheese and crumbled bacon. Fresh tasty tuna sashimi comes next in a presentation that pairs the tuna with cucumber and edamame and a touch of wasabi cream on top. The flat iron steak entrée is cooked to perfection and is enough for two. Its herb-peppercorn crust is scrumptious; served with an arugula salad with roasted corn and ricotta salata right on the plate, it all works. The simply grilled fish special is a generous piece of cobia served with orzo in a flavorful, tomatoey lemon-caper sauce with bite-size al dente green beans. It’s delicious too. Full, we glance at the still-buzzing crowd at the bar and head to our final stop.
About the Vibe - 11:15 p.m.
Stepping past the Maserati and Ferrari, we peek into the sleek O Lounge adjacent to sister property Yolo before crossing the parking lot to the newest member of this happening Las Olas trifecta: Vibe (vibelasolas.com). Waved in after walking the red carpet, we need a few moments to get our bearings. Emanating from the DJ stand is an engulfing symphonic techno beat. Lights are flashing. Well, this is touted as an ultimate music lounge after all. We’re told the DJ flew in from New York for the night. How cool is that? The scene is ultra sexy with optical-illusion, wavelike walls that morph into the female form if you scrutinize them closely. Comfy at our V.I.P. table amid well-heeled clients from 30-something to boomers, we garner attention the second our wine arrives. Out of nowhere, someone sits down and starts doing magic tricks! He’s harmless, so we shoo the bouncers away (these guys are good) and get caught up in the vibe of Vibe. For more information, visit the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau at sunny.org.
Want to Spend the Night?
- The new kid in Fort Lauderdale is B Ocean and it is “b”-eautiful. The curvaceous white lobby is fun and the rooms are sleek with white leather furnishings. bhotelsandresorts.com
- W Fort Lauderdale is hot. Super-swanky, its interior includes seashells permeating the Living Room lounge’s décor. Awaken to the sunrise with an ocean view. starwoodhotels.com
- The historic Riverside Hotel is a Las Olas landmark. Hit the dance floor at Vibe, then mosey back for a nightcap at the hotel’s Golden Lyon Bar before turning in. riversidehotel.com